How do I become a "Hustler?"
November 13, 2008 6:24 AM   Subscribe

How do I become a "Hustler?" And I don't mean it in the illegal drug dealing sense, but more the metaphor for a person who is a go-getter, on top of his game, make the deal, get it inked, and get paid?

See, I recently graduated from grad school as a TV/Radio/Film major to enter the entertainment industry with aspirations of being a composer/sound designer/mixer/post production... anything in that vein.

Once I'm a part of a project, I consider myself to be the "dream team player" in that I work VERY hard, find good communication essential to the success of the team, work tirelessly until the project is done, and am willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the project is done quickly, accurately, and with high quality.

However, getting to the point where I count for something is proving difficult for me. I know the economy is tough now, but I haven't found a steady job yet... I've been freelance composing to stay afloat (and these are with contacts that introduced themselves to me). There's something about picking up that phone and making that call that freaks me out... perhaps the fear of rejection. I'm ok with emailing (I prefer doing things electronically) and I'm extremely comfortable in person. I think it's that I hate talking to people in realtime without being able to see the expressions i rely on for feedback in face-to-face meetings. I do relax after we get into the conversation (if it's going well), but the initial motion to dial the number is hard for me.

A lot of networking is done on the phone and I really want to shake it, because I think that is a key to my success. I envy those who can just get on the phone, knock on doors, hand out flyers... whatever it takes to make that connection. But why be jealous when I could learn it too ;-)

Any help would be greatly appreciated!
posted by FireStyle to Human Relations (16 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Just FYI - I would be wary of using that term, not for the sexual implications, but because hustler usually implies dishonesty and a lack of ethics. (ie. I was hustled)
posted by gwenlister at 6:54 AM on November 13, 2008

You really do have to start becoming fearless in everything you do. It goes beyond just making calls. Start putting your compositions where people can see them, join industry associations and seek a committee role. I think e-mail has really allowed a lot of fearful people to hide behind a wall and feel less rejection when they don't hear back. My challenge to you is to do all of your business transactions over the phone and in person for two months and see if your business does not improve. The media is all about face-to-face, voice-to-ear communication. Rarely do things get passed around by e-mail for long before someone makes a call. If you really feel like you can't do it on the phone, call them and ask for coffee/lunch/dinner. Make it your invitation or go dutch.

Also, do not tell people you're a hustler. I understand you are looking for a word, but hustler is not it. It obvious you want to build a reputation, but that rep will set you back.
posted by parmanparman at 7:14 AM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Agree with Sondrialiac. Keep it up, you've got the key components nailed. One thing I would suggest also is that you try to continue to educate yourself in general, about film, TV, music, AND the world outside of those things. That's something I've heard from several people who have made it-- that more education in general would have made their careers easier (probably true for any career as well).

In addition, I would say try to develop a social network of people who know people. Yeah, that sounds cliched, but it's true. Remember that tthis includes people who aren't necessarily in the business.

Just try to make friends wherever you can, and try to pick up on any connections that person might have. You'd be surprised-- I found out once that one of my wife's students is the son and nephew of two major rock stars, his grandfather was a MAJOR major television star, his other grandfather was a major film star, his half-sister does photography work for MAJOR major magazines, her father photographed MAJOR major rock stars in the 70s, and his other uncle is a major recording artist in Italy. Turns out he wasn't making any of it up, and I found out because we happened to strike up a conversation about music one day outside my wife's office.

Also, along the same lines, strive to be the guy who works his ass off, knows what he's doing, AND who people know as the nicest guy/gal on the block. In general, even in this crazy business, people like to be around people they like. When they're filling key positions, you want them to think, "I like that guy/gal... and they'll give me no headaches."

Actually, in keeping with my "networking" theme, MeMail me with your contact info and I'll see who I know where you are.
posted by Rykey at 7:15 AM on November 13, 2008

Keep making those calls until they bore rather that frighten.

The key to victory is robotic overpreparation.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:21 AM on November 13, 2008 [7 favorites]

To elaborate on my original response and pile-on with the "you shouldn't say 'hustler'" crowd - may I suggest "closer."
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:23 AM on November 13, 2008

With cold calling (I have done this for a living and kind of hated it at first then made my peace with it) it really is a case of 'fake it till you make it', and the more you do it it on a regular basis the easier it will get. So, take a deep breath, pick up the phone and just do it... it also helps a lot if you smile when you talk, even if ytou don't feel like it (really). It may sound totally ridiculous, but people can hear this...
posted by Chairboy at 7:34 AM on November 13, 2008

In this biz you need a thick skin. If you don't have one and are unwilling to develop one, you will never succeed. Plain and simple.
posted by scarello at 7:47 AM on November 13, 2008

One more thing...I dont know what kind of industry you are in (and using the term "hustler" made me think you were in the hip-hop one where it is more common to use and people wont derail you for it) but aside from calling meeting face to face with ANYONE is important and is a stronger way of making a connection. Just last night I went to an industry event and I learned the greatest lesson ever: EVERYONE you meet is a connection and everyone you meet is important regardless of whether they will hire you, see your work, or they are just pretty much regular joes that have nothing to do with you.

For example, last night for the first time I made an effor to meet everyone, and by this I mean that as soon as I got into the door I talked to the girl who was checking the list and told her what I was doing and that I am a singer, I proceeded to give her my card and told her that to a) check out my music b) feel free to give me her email so i can invite her to any events that I have coming up (and I meant just regular going out to a bar type of thing).

Later on in the night she reached out to me gave me her card and told me she is having another event the following week and she will be happy to have me in her list and get me access through the door without doing a you see she herself is not an artist (like me) or a model but she has her own very little sort of power that I would have never realized if I didnt just talk to her

While I was in the party I met this older lady and thought she was very amusing. 15 minutes later I found out she was the mother of the host of the party (who happened to be a tv personality).....later on i met her son and told him all about the conversation....and made another connection and a friendship......not sure I will have my music on tv now but the net-result is that now I least i have a number to call..........

Then towards the end of the night I tried talking to the girl that was the cashier at the club. She was extremely attractive and in my mind "networking" was out of my mind and was looking more for romantic connection. We had a great conversation but she told me she had a boyfriend.....I told her "I respect that" and left.... soon I realized I made the biggest mistake ever.....she is the cashier of the club and she is always there....had I just gone like thats very cool why dont you and your boyfriend check out my music some time...I probably would have gained a new friend and someone that is connected (in a very small way) to all the major events.

So I learned my lesson and going forward I will meet and talk to anybody no matter where or who they are.....face to face connections make a 1000% stronger connection than anyone you just meet on the internet or on the phone and you will not feel so weird when you make those cold calls.
posted by The1andonly at 8:19 AM on November 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Oh yes I forgot to tell you....send me a mefi mail if you are interested in just never know man....
posted by The1andonly at 8:21 AM on November 13, 2008

I am going to assume that you were not a student in one of the classes that I TAed last year in a T/R/F program, for a professor who knew how to work the industry. He spent the large portion of a class (and made all of the students do this with a bigwig) going over "how to network". This, roughly, is his phone script for calling the offices of bigwigs:

YOU: "Hello, this is YOUR NAME. And who is this?"

With that, you have set up that YOUR NAME is somebody of importance and you are also interested in the names of the lackeys that guard the bigwig. You have written down the names of these lackeys for reference, of course. Because you will most likely have to call back when bigwig doesn't return your call at first.

The next time you call, you can say:

YOU: "Hello, this is YOUR NAME. And who is this?"
THEM: blah blah blah
YOU: "Oh hello, I spoke with JOAN last week. I'd like to speak with BIGWIG." (or) "Oh hello again TONY. Could I speak with BIGWIG?"

Essentially, the idea was that big relationships start with little relationships.
posted by stefnet at 9:06 AM on November 13, 2008

In my experience it has nothing to do with telephones or flyers, I don't know anyone who works that way. If you don't have enough real world experience and connections for people to be calling YOU, you need to get in on the ground floor somewhere. Take any internship you can get, work with people, if you're smart and capable you'll do fine.
posted by mattsweaters at 11:21 AM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies... I was pretty sure the "hustler" analogy would play better lol. I'm well aware of the connotation, but that type of fearlessness that you see with a Jay-Z, or a 50-Cent... like em or love em (and believe me, I do NOT condone bambozleling other people), they approach networking with a sort of dauntless attitude. I like some of the tips to gain that.
posted by FireStyle at 12:14 PM on November 13, 2008

Yeah, you know when an individual is getting 250+ phone calls a day, which they do in the average large agency, and 100+, which they do in a film development/production environment, there is no amount of cold-call style phone hustling you can do that will matter. Phone time is precious and email is easily ignored. Whatever it is that you want to do, you have to go and find a way to put yourself in that environment as much and as often you can. Internships are a great way if you can afford to work for free. Follow the job lists and ask around about jobs. Look to collaborate on side-projects of people who have slightly better jobs and more experience than you. Ask your established contacts to keep their ear to the ground. Work the parties, but do not party. Remember, on the production end, you do not want to be dauntless as much as you want to be smart and strategic in self-promotion. Take the little opportunities, be gracious to everyone you meet, and always produce the best work you can possibly produce.
posted by mrmojoflying at 12:41 PM on November 13, 2008

I gained total phone confidence after working in cold calling people (who really don't want to hear from you - it was market research - telesales would've been even worse). Still today though, if I'm really nervous before an important call, I make a brief list of keywords of things I want to say. Just as you would before doing a presentation. You will appear to talk freely - the keywords help you along and you can fall back on them in case your mind goes blank for nervousness. If you were desperate to practice you could always call up random people and pretend to sell double glazing. Heh.
posted by yoHighness at 2:35 PM on November 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Set an Arbitrary Number of Suck. Tell yourself, for example, that you'll have to make 100 phone calls before you get one meeting. Well, if you want the one meeting, you better crank through those 99 calls it will take you to get there, hadn't you?

Seriously, if you don't make the calls, nobody can ever say yes, so you just need to make the calls. The trick with the Arbitrary Number of Suck is that when you get shot down, you get to say "woo hoo!" and cross another one off the list, moving ever closer towards your numeric goal.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:13 PM on November 13, 2008

I´ve been advised ¨you have to hustle¨, but it would never have been described as ¨you need to be a hustler¨. Very different connotations.

Fear of rejection? It´s like dating, you need to get out there and do it anyhow.
posted by yohko at 3:22 PM on November 13, 2008

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